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Roger R.


There is Life After a Stroke

My name is Roger Relich and I live in Rockford, Michigan. In 2001 I experienced several unusual incidents which turned out to be TSI attacks.

I was getting ready to head out to the ski slopes when I suddenly felt extremely dizzy. I knelt down next to the bed and after about 2 to 3 minutes the dizziness passed. While I was loading on the chairlift later that day, I lost my balance and almost toppled over, an unusual happening since I was an expert skier. During the day I told my son who was skiing with me that I did not feel right. I felt that I was uncoordinated and not totally aware of where I was. I raced later that day and my times were much slower than usual. I passed it off as just a one-time happening and did not give it any more thought.

Several weeks later I was again skiing, and I became violently ill with flu-like symptoms vomiting several times and suffering from a fever and chills. When I returned home I made an appointment with my local physician who concluded that the dizziness might have been from an inner ear problem. Yet he did not detect any inner ear deficit. Also he was not sure about the flu-like symptoms. I asked him if these could have been mini strokes since I was aware of stroke symptoms as my father had three strokes. He said he did not think so, but I asked if I could have a CAT scan and a carotid artery check. I had suffered from high blood pressure for quite some time, but the doctor did not suggest any medicine. Both tests did not show any problems.

About two months later, I Ieft work and had another episode where I felt dizzy and a bit confused. I went to bed and about 6 p.m. felt my right leg and arm going numb. I called my daughter, who is a med tech, and she said to call 911 and she would meet me at the hospital. She said I might be having a stroke. By the time the ambulance arrived, I was again vomiting and losing feeling and strength in my right extremeties. When I arrived at the emergency room, I told the attending physician that I thought I was having a stroke. He asked what I was feeling and I explained the loss of feeling on my right side. He squeezed my right and left hands and said that my right hand was weaker. He then ordered a CAT scan, an EKG, and put me in the hospital overnight for observation. He later came to my room and said he did not think I was having a stroke as he could not see any abnormalities from the CAT scan. At 5 o'clock the next morning I was awakened by the same doctor and a neurologist and asked if I could move my fingers and toes on my right side. I could not. They then informed me that I had had a massive stroke and that my whole right side of my body was paralyzed. The emergency doctor then explained that the clot buster was not administered because he could not see any brain malfunction and if I were having a hemorrhagic rather than an ischemic stroke, administering the clot buster could result in major bleeding and could be fatal. They later told me that the CAT scan did show two pin size areas in the base of my brain which he termed TSI attacks or mini strokes.

I was transferred to Mary FreeBed Hospital for inpatient therapy after a few days. I was wheeled down to my first therapy session and asked to walk about 10 feet using the aid of two parallel bars. It took me about 10 minutes to walk those 10 feet, and I was so exhausted that I had to miss my afternoon therapy session. After three weeks of intensive therapy, I was sent home in a wheelchair and told I may never be able to walk again.

I was scheduled for outpatient therapy twice a day for the next 6 months. After several weeks of therapy, I could begin to walk with a walker but with much difficulty. Several weeks later I graduated to a three pronged cane. Soon I was allowed to ride my bike. Two years later I was once again skiing albeit I felt like a rote beginner due to a lack of coordination and proprioception. Three months later I was able to return to work but tired very easily and had to nap several times a day. I also would drop items that I held in my right hand. I was a school teacher, and had difficulty writing on the chalkboard. I also struggled to connect thoughts, but as time went on, I became physically stronger and my speech and thought processes improved dramatically. I walked with a limp, and noticed that the limp became more pronounced when I was tired. My speech also slurred when I became fatigued, which occurred often. I continued to work on my strength and coordination and after ten years there are no outwardly visible signs of my stroke, even though I still have some numbness and lack of feeling on my right side. I can do most any activity I want, just at a slower pace. This year I once again qualified to ski in the National downhill finals in Winter Park Colorado, which has been one of my goals for the ten years I was convalescing.

The other lingering problem from my stroke is that I can no longer multi task as well as I once could, and I tend to get confused more easily especially when travelling to new locations. Overall my recovery has been exceptional and I am thankful for the improvements I have made.

I serve as a mentor in Mary FreeBed's stroke recovery program, and my message to all my mentees is that there is life after stroke. Recovery just takes a lot of hard work, a positive attitude, and maybe some faith that one will improve.


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